We men can be slow learners; some slower than others.
Earlier this summer a Polk County jury awarded $2.2 million to a former Iowa Senate Republican caucus staffer who claimed her male superiors disregarded a culture of blatant sexual harassment in their Statehouse department.
Really? In 2017 this is still a problem? What kind of “men” still do this?
I came of age during the ’60s when the workplace was composed primarily of men with women usually providing clerical support. By the early ’70s this was changing.
As a young newspaper advertising director in the ’80s I had to deal with some older male staff attitudes toward the growing number of women on our sales staff. During that seven-year period, however, there was only one instance of sexual harassment, mild in comparison to the recent case at our state capitol, and it was dealt with quickly and firmly.
The women’s sales performances and related talents spoke to their value to our team and the old attitudes faded.
During my 12 years as a newspaper publisher our parent company provided an abundance of training resources on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. We had a strict and straightforward policy against it and how to report it if it happened. In those 12 years we had only one formal harassment complaint. After a thorough investigation the Iowa Civil Right Commission found the claim to be false.
In 14 years of subsequent employment prior to my retirement, men and women worked together without harassment problems.
So how is it that a half century after women became a common and significant part of the workforce some men still act like disgusting adolescents?
I was not shocked by the testimony from the recent trial. I’ve heard and read women tell of the harassment they have experienced in the workplace. I was, however, angered. The behavior of the perpetrators was boorish, immature, cruel and criminal.
In the days following the recent trial a 40-something family friend posted a warning on Facebook related to some of the harassment she has endured in the workplace.
She wrote, “For the boss who would throw quarters on the ground, hoping I’d pick them up so he could stare at and make comments about my backside…
“For the boss who said they didn’t know if their fast food uniforms would fit over my ‘huge rack…’
“To the boss who told me ‘no matter what you wear, you’ll be violating the dress code…’
“To the coworker who told me that I ‘smelled like a stripper…’
“For every jerk who has snapped my bra, grinded on me on the dance floor of a club, catcalled me, inboxed me dirty pictures, asked me private/humiliating questions about my body and sex life, discounted me, ignored me, belittled me, doubted me… get ready… the other (stiletto) shoe is about to drop.”
I have known this young woman since she was a young teenager. She is intelligent and articulate and dresses and comports herself appropriately. She is an outstanding young wife and mother.
But even if she weren’t all of those things, what makes men think they can treat women in such a manner? Would they tolerate other men treating their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers this way?
Men sometimes claim women are asking for harassment by the way they dress or behave. Sorry, guys, you are being paid to do a job. Divert your glance, do your job and keep your harassing comments to yourself.
Sexual harassment is not necessarily a workplace norm. Many men and women today work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
I have no problem with the recent $2.2 million award. The victim deserves it.
I do have a problem with the fact the men involved in the harassment still have their jobs (as of this writing) and because they are state employees the taxpayers will pick up the $2.2 million tab.
The slow learners who committed the harassment and the supervisors who allowed it should be made to pay.
It might help them learn a little faster.